PS2 REVIEW: NARUTO: ULTIMATE NINJA

The second Naruto console game is an instant classic. by Vaughn Smith

June 26, 2006 - Naruto: Ultimate Ninja is the North American port of Naruto: Narutimate Hero originally released in Japan three years ago. Based on the Naruto anime series which has been snowballing in popularity every week since it's North American debut in September 2005, the franchise is reaching the fevered heights of previous pop culture phenomonen's Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z.

For those who haven't heard of Naruto, the series originally began as a manga by Masashi Kishimoto back in 1999. The series revolves around a hyperactive, overeager and cocky 12-year old ninja named Uzumaki Naruto who wants nothing more out of life than approval and recognition. The game features 12 playable characters and 2 extra special fighters exclusive to this release, for a grand total of 14. While that roster may seem a little weak compared to other fighting games, you'll barely have time to complain once you're swept up into the frenzied pace of battle.

Instead of taking the easy road and creating another 2D fighting game which we've seen countless times before, CyberConnect2 married the pick up and play and multi-level mayhem of Super Smash Bros. with the harried pacing of PowerStone and the result will knock Naruto fans out. Instead of settling for generic environments, astute Naruto lovers will recognize locales which have been faithfully recreated from the show. The fighting takes place on a 2D plane, allowing for left , right and jumping movement, but you'll also discover other accessible areas where the characters can jump to and continue the brawl with a simple directional command. The environments are filled with characters from the show who will provide you or your opponent with various items or powerups as the fight progresses, which can turn the tide of battle quickly. The frenetic pace of the game might come as a shock to those who are used to the speed of traditional 2D fighters, but once you find your groove, you'll have an all new appreciation for what CyberConnect2 has accomplished.

Stringing together combos is the name of the game and for the most part can be done with one attack button although you'll want to experiment with different button combinations to see what you can discover on your own. You can also throw projectiles at your opponent and even switch between them with a quick tap of the directional pad. Players are also provided Special Meters which once filled can be used to unleash wild moves that are insanely over the top anime craziness at its finest. While Naruto: Ultimate Ninja isn't the first game to feature pre-programmed moves that you sit back and watch, I'll give kudos to the developers for at least including a few for each character. Even with the added variety, you can't help but want to fast forward them after playing the game for more than a few hours. When these moves are activated, a button sequence appears on screen which the player will have to enter quickly. To make things extra interesting Player 2 can try to out-button you at the same time, so it's anyone's guess as to who will emerge victorious. With so much attention to detail in regards to characters, moves, voices and catchphrases from the show, I defy any Naruto fan to not crack a huge smile while playing.

Ultimate Ninja's meat and potatoes is the Story mode which allows you to play through an entire scenario for each playable character, but the game also offers a helpful practice mode which will provide combo strings for you to practice and master, 2 player vs., battle modes and an off-the-wall mission mode which requires completing a particular objective while fighting for your life.

Visually the game is more colorful and exciting than it is technically brilliant. Most of the background and environmental objects are simple, while the characters are fluidly animated and outlined with a subtle cel-shading that helps them stand out. The control is very tight and responsive and will be accessible to most gamers who know their way around a Dualshock. The music, voices and sound effects are also equally impressive and have been retained from the series to provide instant recognition.

I can't say that I'm a Naruto fan as I'm way out of the anime loop, but I can appreciate when a developer delivers a quality product based on an existing licensed property. Quite simply, if you are a Naruto fan, you're going to get a lot of entertainment value out of Ultimate Ninja.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

Rating out of 5
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja (PS2)
4.5
Graphics
Great presentation which is extremely impressive as the game is 3 years old.
4.0
Control
The control is very responsive. The action is heavy on the pace, light on the depth, but it works.
4.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Fans of the show will appreciate the dedication to detail on all counts.
3.5
Play Value
Lots of modes and great fun for 1 or 2 players. You won't get unlimited usage out of it, but you'll probably come back and play it every so often.
4.5
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: PS2
Dev: CyberConnect2
Pub: Bandai Namco
Release: June 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Vaughn

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best